From the time my daughter was old enough to understand my words I have been telling her that she comes from a long line of strong women. I would tell her this as she cried on my shoulder after skinning her knee riding bike or when she inconsolably awaited her immunizations in the pediatricians office. It wasn't a ploy to sooth or quiet her...it was truth. From my maternal grandmother raising ten feisty children on a farm during the depression years, to my mom acting as a second mother to her siblings while still a child herself and a few short years later scraping meals together for her own children on a tight military budget. While what makes the women in our family strong may differ from generation to generation, the reason for their strength is consistent...love of family and a resolve to not only survive but flourish during tough times. To crack a joke and offer a warm hug to any in need even in the darkest moments. To draw strength by helping others around them in need when they themselves have little left to give.
If you would ask either my grandmother or mother, neither would ever have considered themselves strong or special in any way for what they thought to be simply fulfilling their obligations. And in fact, in my youth I saw nothing remarkable about their sacrifice and often took it for granted. I am ashamed to say there were times especially in my teen years where I would gladly have traded my tough mother for one that kindly cooed and coddled me instead of teaching me to toughen up myself. From these women I learned that the scars we acquire along life's path are what makes us beautiful....so long as we choose to gain strength from them instead of allowing those scars to remain gaping wounds preventing love from healing the heart and soul. Today I can say my scars are my most valued personal acquisitions. They make me who I am, they have built a foundation for how I treat others as well as myself.
My family is large and certainly does not lack in volume of females, with my mother's seven sisters and their off spring. But over the years my "family" of strong women has grown even larger to include my wonderfully kind hearted mother and sister in laws as well as some of the most amazingly strong female friends I am proud to call my "sisters." Some have earned their battle scars by surviving violent crime, domestic abuse or by beating cancer. Others by living with debilitating disease, raising a family as a single mom, bravely mothering their child with cancer or by fighting for their marriage and refusing to throw away their families. Others gained their strength by surviving and growing through heart breaking loss of parents, spouses and even children. Some do battle every day flexing their muscles as our nurses, teachers, mothers and volunteer care takers....loving and nurturing while taking abuse themselves always turning their cheek. They inspire all of us by quietly volunteering tirelessly, by refusing to give up on their dreams and getting up to try again over and over instead of giving up. These women are my heroes, my friends and my soul sisters. They not only survive and provide, they also teach, comfort, forgive, laugh and give joy to others....not despite, but because of their scars.